Hello, Columbus! // (Almost) Goodbye, Cleveland!

I’ve been distracted and spending a curiously small amount of time in the kitchen due to some big news: I’m moving to Columbus! Why yes, I realize, it’s still Ohio, still the Midwest and still what I consider (in my heart of hearts) a long way from home, but it’s an exciting move and I’m looking forward to all the new adventures and opportunities that come with it. 

Subsequently, I’ve been packing like a madwoman, eating tons of quick kale salads and last minute pizza (and pizza analogs – like pizza on a bagel or pizza on English muffins) and basically neglecting the blog. Besides, it’s winter, and at least here in Cleveland, there’s nary a sliver of daylight by which to photograph, let alone much of an appetite for something to create.

As I draw into my final few weeks in Cleveland, I’ve been revisiting—both in mind and body--some of my favorite places for vegan food on Cleveland’s west side. I decided it'd be nice to share that list with you, in case you happen to live in or visit Cleveland. There are definitely a few places I’ll miss sorely, and will make an effort to visit anytime I’m back in town.

The Root Cafe in Lakewood offers organic, vegan meals every day.
(Photo by Frank J. Lanza)

15518 Detroit Road, Lakewood, OH
This organic bakery and eatery sources most of their ingredients from local farms and vendors whenever possible, right down to the flour for their fresh-baked breads. The Root caters heavily to the bike and mustache crowd, which is usually a turn-off for me, but the café retained some of the same comfy-cozy atmosphere that the same owners cultivated at the former Phoenix Coffee location just a few doors down. Their menu offers tons of vegan options every day, including vegan cookies and pastries. Try a “Clevo,” an open-faced sandwich served hot with hummus, spinach, mushrooms and rosemary or add tempeh to one of their cheeseless pizzas, like the Root, made with roasted root veggies.  I was particularly impressed by a scone I noshed on some weeks back, and they have lovely specials all the time. Raw Food Thursdays offer an array of vegan raw dishes, from drinks and appetizers to full entrees and desserts.    

30006 Detroit Road, Westlake, OH
A hefty portion of sweet yet tart seaweed salad followed by a vegetable maki roll with avocado, cucumber, carrots and whatever pickled veg they happen to have on hand. It may sound boring as veg sushi options go, but Arashi is reliably fresh and that goes a long way in my book. Arashi is also a full-service hibachi bar and, upon request, they will gladly prepare vegan hibachi dishes in the back kitchen to avoid cross-contamination.

Johnny Mango's Vegan Big Bean Burrito on World Vegan Day
(Photo from Johnny Mango's Facebook page)
3120 Bridge Ave, Cleveland, OH
This “world café” is an old favorite of mine from the first time I came to Cleveland years ago and I’m sad to say that I don’t visit as often as I should. Johnny Mango offers an omnivore-friendly menu with vegetarian and vegan versions of just about every dish, as well as a separate menu section entitled, “The Ballad of the Meatless and Delicious,” where they mark which items are vegan as well as gluten-free. No matter your dietary preference or restriction, you’ll be able to easily navigate the menu—although it may not be easy to make your selection, with so many options available. A bonus: They just announced on Facebook that their blood orange margaritas are back for the season! Completely delicious, especially by the pitcher. Their vegan Pad Thai is particularly delicious (I like it almost as much as my own!).

14810 Detroit Ave, Lakewood, OH
When Deagan’s first started offering vegan specials on Wednesday night, it was a bit like a spaghetti western: some good, some bad, some just plain ugly. Since then, things have improved dramatically. I’ve spent many a Wednesday night poring over their vegan dinner specials, wishing I’d brought more friends with me so we could order one of everything. Although their vegan desserts leave quite a bit to be desired, their small plate and entrée offerings more than make up for it. If a girl could marry an entrée, I’d propose to the huge dish of vegan gnocchi with baby root vegetables that I had there a few weeks ago (and for lunch the next day). A few vegan dishes have even won a place on Deagan’s regular menu, including the vegan strudel – pastry stuffed with mushrooms – and a vegan “board” with date cake, nuts and fruits, which makes for a nice nosh when paired with good friends and a few drinks. Another bonus? Deagan’s works closely with local growers to source their ingredients.

Happy Dog's Vegan Field Roast Italian Sausage with chickpea chili and potato chips
(Photo by Veganincleveland.blogspot.com)
5801 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH
Happy Dog offers essentially one menu item: hot dogs. However, they must have heard that if you’re only going to do one thing, you should do it right. For $5, you get an almost-quarter-pound Field Road Italian Sausage with your choice of up to 6 different toppings from their extensive list. Since Happy Dog also serves regular non-vegan hot dogs, not all of their toppings are vegan, so one must choose wisely. I’ve never gone wrong with caramelized onions and crimini mushrooms. I hear their chickpea chili is also amazing as a dog topping. They also have tater tots and (of course) beer, so I think this place is pretty much heaven.

21290 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River, OH
My favorite dish (and honestly the only thing I order besides beer) at Rocky River Brewing Company is the grilled portabella spinach salad with candied pecans, strawberries, cucumbers and a light kiwi-strawberry vinaigrette (just ask them to hold the cheese). It’s not your Mom’s side salad, either.
The brewery offers an enormous portion that will satisfy almost anyone – and sneaking a few French fries from a fellow diner won’t hurt.

11213 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH
Now That’s Class is a skeazy punk bar with the feel of, well, a skeazy punk bar. But if you’re anything like me (grew up in the 90s wearing a lot of flannel), you’ll feel right at home. On any given day, Now That’s Class might be serving up vegan versions of all kinds of homey favorites, like mac & cheese, cheesesteaks, Reubens and even vegan drink specials like White Russians. In true punk rock fashion, their “Sunday brunch” specials start at 3pm. Who’d even think about rolling out of bed before then?

In addition to making the rounds to all my Cleveland favorites and packing for the upcoming move, I’ve also started writing a weekly column at Examiner.com on Vegan Culture in Columbus. Most of my articles are location-specific, such as restaurant reviews, but I’ll occasionally include topics that appeal to those outside the Columbus area as well, so please check it out and consider subscribing if you like what you read. 


A Whole Lotta Noshing Ahead in 2012

Here we are, folks! 2012 has arrived, long awaited and ripe with expectations. It's been a busy winter so far in my neck of the woods, and I'm looking forward to a busy 2012 as well. With this new year comes new opportunities and, like most people, I'm feeling motivated to make forward progress toward a happier, healthier me.

Baked Zucchini and Carrot Fritters with Tofu Omelet from January 2011
But I didn't make a New Year's Resolution to work out, lose weight, fit into a certain size jeans, or go on a restrictive diet. In fact, I didn't make any resolutions at all. My only real resolve is what it always has been: to eat as many vegetables and whole foods as possible and to always listen to my body.
Rustic Fig Tartlet from March 2011
When I started blogging my recipes back in 2009, I added the resolution to share my foodie thoughts with anyone willing to listen and/or read. I'm really thrilled to hear from folks on a daily basis who have fallen in love with vegetables -- again or for the first time -- through my recipes. I am at once pleased, proud, joyful and satisfied to receive this kind of feedback and I look forward to reaching out to many more people in 2012.
Pesto with Basil, Artichoke and Peas from June 2011
Rather than spend my first post of 2012 recapping what happened in 2011, I thought it would be more appropriate to let you know what to expect on The Verdant Life in the coming year:

  • Even more easy, healthy recipes for all kinds of eaters 
  • Healthed-up versions of gourmet recipes
  • More tips on food budgets and ways to save at the grocery store 
  • Cook-ahead recipes for entertaining and weeknight meals
Vegan Pizza Day Countdown - Crust, Sauces and Toppings from January 2011
Additionally, you're going to see a lot more posts about pizza. As I reviewed my website statistics from 2011, I realized that the #1 search term that brings folks to my website, month after month, is pizza. If you've been reading for a while, you know I make my pizza dough from scratch and that pizza night is in regular rotation at my house (usually on Friday nights, an idea I got from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). I've got about a gazillion ideas for pizza topping combinations and pizza-like foods, and I can't wait to start sharing them with you this year. 

So... who's hungry?

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